Friday, February 29, 2008

The Hubris of Huckabee and His Ilk

As Mike Huckabee slips further out of touch (but a little deeper into the hearts of Christianists around the country), I got to thinking about the source of his appeal -- by which I mean the rhetoric upon which he calls in an attempt to persuade of his calling. His pitch, in other words, not his likeability -- which, I have to say, seems pretty solid.

The problem with Huck and his followers is their insistence that they have found an Eternal Truth. Transformative and unchanging. While I say bully for them if they feel this way, but please keep your nose out of my opinion of what constitutes Eternal Truth.

Just because you choose to believe something is true doesn't make it true. Just because a lot of other people are convinced something is true doesn't make it true. The Muslims have no tangible evidence of Allah's existence, nor do the Jews have any proof that Yahweh really is G*d. Christians have the exact same amount of evidence for God's existence as the folks who offer the Flying Spaghetti Monster as the One and True God.

You are welcome to convince yourself God exists. You are welcome to try and convince others. But when it comes to how we live in the United States as a civil society, let's keep our discourse backed up by things which virtually all of us can agree on. Simple stuff like the speed of light, the effects of gravity or what happens when you mix vinegar and baking soda. It's something everyone can see.

But when hard-core Christianists get to the end of their rational arguments, and find them lacking, they call in an invisible magical being as their ace in the hole. As the Church Lady used to say, "how conveeeeenient."

The trouble really begins when another group (say, just for giggles, Al Qaeda) calls on their invisible magical being to backup THEIR argument when rational thought and scientific facts don't support whatever point they are trying to make.

The absolute hubris of it -- to think that what YOU believe is an Eternal Truth. Worse, to then try to use the power you have obtained by duping others into believing an opinion is hard fact.

Rrazz Room Opens

I still hate the name, but San Francisco's newest night club/cabaret is off to a good start. After delaying opening for many weeks, the scene that used to be at The Empire Plush Room at the York Hotel has moved downtown to the Nikko Hotel, with the swank level raised considerably.

I really loved the Plush Room, in part because it has a history (it used to be a speakeasy during Prohibition), and in part because it was a little over a block from the first place I lived in San Francisco. But I could get used to the Rrazz Room -- though probably not to its name.

The two Rs of Rrazz -- Robert and Rory -- have done an excellent job building a new cabaret. It's not stunning or especially noteworthy in a design sense, but it's elegant without being gaudy, unobtrusive without being bland. The sightlines seem good, and the sound was likewise -- but I would think they ought to install some permanent speakers. The loudspeakers they had floor-mounted put quite a few seats out of commission. The back wall is a wall of glass, sort of like Jazz at Lincoln Center, the venue in the Time-Warner Building in New York where Ellen does her show from time to time. If only the Rrazz Room looked out on Central Park and midtown Manhattan instead of the rather pedestrian Hilton Hotel across the street. Then we'd really have something.

Tonight's show was Paula West. I'd never heard her sing. She can. (And so can her backup singers, three sweet-voiced black women who really light up stage left. Best backup trio I've heard in a LONG time.) Paula interprets a range of songs, including great versions of "Something Good" from the movie of "The Sound of Music," "Jambalaya" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

It's a great show -- though someone ought to tell the band there is a reason "bass solo" is the punchline of a joke. (The setup for which is about explorers and jungle drums going on too long.) Paula's four-piece combo does a number prior to Paula coming onstage, and it runs on a tad. I enjoyed hearing them, but the top of the show is not the place for extensive soloing. Give the pianist and the guitarist a few bars to play with -- but save any bass and drum soloing for a little later in the show (if at all), after we've warmed up to you.

All in all, though, a great show in a great room. Visit soon.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Prince Among Soldiers

Following a news leak, the apparently secret deployment of Britain's Prince Harry (it had been kept under wraps by the UK media, but Matt Drudge broke the embargo) is now out in the public eye. The prince (whose family nickname is "Ginger," by the way -- but for his red hair and freckled complexion, not due to any resemblance to Tina Louise) has been serving as a tactical air controller, but also goes out on foot patrols.

My question is, if the Brits can send their royal sons into harm's way, why aren't the Bush girls serving? Why doesn't Chelsea Clinton at least hook up with the Peace Corps? Why don't a few of Mitt Romney's boys enlist? (Romney's previous excuse that they were "serving the country" by helping him get elected President is now moot since he's bowed out of the race.)

Rationally thinking...

...I should probably be doing something else right now. Instead, I'm post this link to a book review in the current New Yorker about a new tome by a couple of economists discussing how people don't always make decisions in their best interest, even if the math is pretty clear. This was no surprise to. After all, it was the heartland that elected (and re-elected!) George W. Bush, and he has certainly never had their best interests in mind.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For Your Dolls*

*as in "Valley of the..."

Another wild find on Looks like something Keith Richards or Amy Winehouse might carry: a pillbox inlaid with moss green stingray leather. I dig it so much I almost want to develop an addiction, too.

Monday, February 25, 2008


It won the Oscar last night. Now it just needs to be released on DVD. Like "Sicko," another documentary that makes me mad. It is amazing to me how much injustice we put up with in this country.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Anybody home?

I know, I've been away, possums. It's been almost a week since you've had anything new from me and I just couldn't let you wait any longer.

Unfortunately, I don't have anything terribly interesting to say. (You cynics can keep your "so what else is new?" to yourselves, thanks very much.) However, in keeping with the masthead which promises comments on "politics, theater, culture, golf," I'll give you a short something on all four.

Politics: I could care less if John McCain played around with a lobbyist. People who aspire to be the most powerful person in the world have a lot on their shoulders. If they need a bit on the side, I say fine. That's their business. I don't want him as president (but mainly because of what it would mean for the Supreme Court), but what he does for giggles is his business. As long as it helps him lead better.

Theater: Last show I saw was "Mormon American Princess." A one-man show by Steven Fales, who previously did "Confessions of a Mormon Boy. That was interesting. This, on the other hand, was awful, on so many levels. Unimaginative, repetitive, self-absorbed (you're supposed to care about the AUDIENCE, Steven, not yourself -- that's what makes a true performer, they GIVE of themselves) and emotionally hollow.

That opening number was exceptionally bad. All he did was plug the word "Mormon" into 40 different Broadway tunes: "Oh What a Beautiful Mormon," "Everything's Coming Up Mormon," "Some Enchanted Mormon." It was mind-numbingly awful. And that "rap" number he attempted was pathetic. And a capella, no less. He could at least have tried a drum machine or played a tape of a rhythm track.

The show needs MAJOR help. First, he needs a writer. Then a director. And they better both be REALLY good if they want to salvage anything from this mess.

Culture: Have you used the new soap dispensers in public restrooms that deliver pre-suds soap? I hate them. I like the sense of satisfaction that comes from working up a lather. Our culture is simply trying to do too much for us.

Golf: Tiger. Who else? I wanted to watch the Accenture Match Play Championship, but I've been outrageously busy the past few days (and will be over the weekend) so I couldn't/can't -- but from what I read, he's been his usual amazing self.

Make this last. Can't say when I'll be back.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Can We Be Rational?

Click here to read an interesting review in Salon of a new work by Susan Jacoby, "The American Age of Unreason." The book examines how and why Americans have fallen prey to irrationality -- citing, for instance, the fact that a majority of Americans believe creationism should be given equal weight in education as evolution as a means of explaining how life came to be.

Money quote from the review: "The chief manifestations of this newly virulent irrationality are the rise of fundamentalist religion and the flourishing of junk science and other forms of what Jacoby calls "junk thought." The mentally enfeebled American public can now be easily manipulated by flimsy symbolism, whether it's George W. Bush's bumbling, accented speaking style (labeling him as a "regular guy" despite his highly privileged background) or the successful campaign by right-wing ideologues to smear liberals as snooty "elites." Unable to grasp even the basic principles of statistics or the scientific method, Americans gullibly buy into a cornucopia of bogus notions, from recovered memory syndrome to intelligent design to the anti-vaccination movement."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What Abu Gharaib Hath Wrought

You may have seen the video. You may have heard the story.

If you haven't, the brief story is that sheriff's officers at a Florida county jail wanted to search a man confined to a wheelchair and didn't believe he could stand on his own. Not believing the man was actually confined to his chair, the deputy unceremoniously dumped the man onto the floor.

Setting aside for a moment that the victim is described as a "quadriplegic" even though he can use his arms and is seen in the video moving his legs -- there are other conditions that can confine someone to a wheelchair that don't involve complete paralysis, it seems to me this is a further symptom of the poisonous effects of torture being approved at the highest levels of our government. If it's OK to torture a terrorist, why isn't it OK to torture a rapist? And if a rapist, why not a thief?

This is how you get to a sheriff's deputy abusing a man accused of a traffic violation.

Monday, February 11, 2008

2000 Redux

OK, here's what's keeping me awake at night. Obama continues his momentum, and wins a majority of delegates, but not enough to avoid a brokered convention, so the super delegates come into play. (As you may or may not know, "super delegates" are political insiders. Wikipedia defines them as "Superdelegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention include all Democratic members of the United States Congress, Democratic governors, various additional elected officials, members of the Democratic National Committee, as well as "all former Democratic Presidents, all former Democratic Vice Presidents, all former Democratic Leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic Minority Leaders, as applicable, and all former Chairs of the Democratic National Committee."

This year they will compose about 20% of the delegate total, so they can make a big difference. They can also vote, exactly how they want, regardless of what the popular vote said. Given their insider status, they could easily go for Hillary and give her the nomination, even if a majority of Democrats want Obama to be the candidate.

Power brokers -- not the people -- chose the president in 2000. Will they do it to us again in 2008? If so, where does that leave American democracy?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Gotta Love the Middle East

Arrested in Dubai for possession of marijuana. How much? A speck, invisible to the naked eye. Found on the bottom of his shoe. But, he was a Rastafarian, so he got searched a little more carefully than most, I would imagine.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Sorry -- can I have that again?

John McCain's in the address to his supporters, moments ago:

"I am, as is often reported, a little superstitious. So I don't want to make any exaggerated predictions -- and there's still a long road ahead -- however, I think it's fair to say that we might have come a little bit closer to the day when mothers in Arizona MIGHT be able to tell their children that someday they could grow up to be President of the United States!"

Going out on a limb there, are ya, John? What do you suppose is stopping them from being able to do that today?

Keep Watching Huckabee

I'm telling you, Mike Huckabee has traction. And it scares me. He won't win the nomination, but they might make him VP candidate. And McCain could win. And he's 71. He could be taken out by some radical Christianist to put a true evangelical into the Oval Office.

Can you imagine the Supreme Court appointments President Huckabee would make?